Infective endocarditis is a bacterial infection of the inner lining of the heart muscle (endocardium). This inner lining also covers the heart valves, and it is these valves which are primarily affected by infective endocarditis. If the infection remains untreated, multiplying bacteria may eventually destroy the valves and result in heart failure. Bacteria may also form small clots (emboli) which move through the blood and block small arteries. These clots may lodge in various parts of the body including the brain and cause serious damage.
There are several forms of infective endocarditis. Two types that have similar symptoms but are caused by different bacteria are acute bacterial endocarditis and subacute bacterial endocarditis. Acute bacterial endocarditis may affect normal heart valves, while subacute bacterial endocarditis more commonly affects heart valves which have been previously damaged by disease. A third type of infective endocarditis, prosthetic valvular endocarditis (PVE), may develop in patients who have previously had artificial (prosthetic) valve replacement or tissue valve replacement.
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